I have decided to tell Melody's birth story. I'm finally ready.
It took many months for me to be able to think about her birth in a positive light. For a long time it was a bundle of painful memories. Anger and resentment simmered inside when I thought about it. When Melody was 7 months old I reached a turning point. I began to remember her birthday with a happy heart. I began to see the good things. Now she is almost 14 months. When people ask, "Would you do it again?" I respond with a small quiet, "Yes, I would."
I'll preface the actual birth with some background information. I grew up in a family that benefited from alternative medicine. My mom used homeopathy for her chronic fatigue, allergies, and general weakness. While she has never been as strong as a typical person, these remedies helped her immensely. She always believed in vitamins, supplements, and health food. I did not have a coca-cola until I was five. (Maybe that's why I love it so much now.)
I have always been comfortable with the idea of natural medicine. As a girl who wanted to be a mom someday, I had it in the back of my head that I'd probably choose to attempt an unmedicated birth. My good friend, Crystal, had her first baby three years before Melody came along. She learned something called The Bradley Method. I liked what I heard from her, so when I found out I was pregnant I looked into it.
I found there were two women in our area that teach The Bradley Method. I called one and was not impressed or comfortable with the conversation. I called the second, and liked her immediately. Her name was Teresa. Chad and I made an appointment to meet her and joined her small class shortly after. There were two other couples in our class, both in their 3rd trimester. I, on the other hand, was merely 10 weeks along. I remember looking down at my flat middle and wondering with all my might what it would be like when the baby grew and stretched me out like a beach ball. Each week I stared at a large picture book portraying the growing baby. I'd look ahead to see how big my baby would get in the next few weeks. I was full of anticipation.
We learned a myriad of exercises including squatting, pelvic rocks, tailor sitting, the butterfly, kegels, and relaxation. Nutrition was also a weekly topic. We learned that consuming 80 to 100 grams of protein each day would drastically reduce the chance of toxemia / pre-eclampsia. I kept record of what I ate and learned that a tuna melt with cheese and tomato was an easy way to get a lot of protein in one meal. Many evenings before bed, I'd drink 8 ounces of milk in order to top off my protein count for the day. The Bradley group was a source of accountability and encouragement in the area of nutrition. I would not have eaten as well without their support.
Through the childbirth class I met several new friends who introduced me to different books about natural childbirth. I read several of them including, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Husband Coached Childbirth, and The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. The more I read, the more excited and sure I became about having an unmedicated birth. I began to think it would be easy to do it the natural way if: I ate well, exercised, learned how to relax, and listened to everything my Bradley teacher said. I hung on her every word during class, asked tons of questions, and listened intensely. I tried to be the model student. Each day I grew more confident in myself and my ability to have a baby without drugs. (Ha!) Chad was equally excited about the information we were learning.
As Chad and I learned about these things, we also learned about our local hospitals. Northwest Arkansas is not as progressive as other areas of the country. This stunted element applies to the medical field as well. We had trouble finding a doctor / hospital combination that pleased us. Some doctors were okay with non-intervention, but their hospital policies scared us. Other hospitals had a good reputation for a friendly natural childbirth environment, but we were unable to find a doctor we were comfortable with. I entered my fourth month of the pregnancy still unsure of which doctor / hospital to use. It was at this point that Chad started talking about having a home birth. At first I was very closed to the idea because of fear. What if something went wrong? How would I forgive myself?
Some reasons we didn't want to be in the hospital included:
I did not want an IV in my arm or a fetal monitor strapped to my belly. I wanted to be able to eat / drink during labor and I didn't want a timeline attached to my labor. After the birth, we wanted the baby to room-in with us. I didn't know if I'd be able to trust a doctor and the nurses to listen to me during the labor. What if I got a mean nurse? What if the doctor insisted on breaking my water or on doing an episiotomy? Basically, Chad and I just didn't want to have to fight the system. We wanted to be fully supported in our birth plan wishes from the get-go. We didn't want to enter the labor process unsure of what kind of birth team we'd have. As we struggled to find a doctor and hospital, I became anxious. Each prenatal visit consisted of fear, uncertainty, and stress.
Sometime in the fifth month of the pregnancy, we met a midwife named Jennifer. I liked her immediately. She was only a few years older than me and had a calm demeanor. She answered our questions with poise and confidence. As we talked and became acquainted, I started feeling hopeful about the idea of a home birth. She practiced out of her home, which was a 100+ year old, two story, cedar sided house on a large shaded lot in the historic part of town. The house had a bedroom / bathroom on the first floor that was her prenatal quarters. Each month we'd have an appointment. Instead of feeling like I was going to the doctor, it was more like visiting a friend. She made us hot tea and sat on the edge of the full size bed while we sat in rocking chairs. We asked questions. She told stories. She listened to our fears and replaced them with knowledge. She gave me confidence in myself as well as in her ability and experience.
After meeting with Jennifer twice, we decided to have our baby at home. Three short months before I had had a casual conversation with an acquaintance who was also pregnant. She told me she was planning to have her baby at home and I remember thinking, "Wow. That's extreme. I wouldn't do that." Chad and I continued seeing an OB incase there were complications that landed us in the hospital after all. The comparison between my OB appointments and my monthly visits to Jennifer's were remarkable. Each time I left the doctor's office I was anxious, irritated, and slightly scared. When I left Jennifer's I felt calm, excited, and uplifted. My OB appointments consisted of waiting a total of around 30 minutes and spending about 10-15 minutes with the doctor / nurse. Appointments with Jennifer lasted at least a hour and centered on conversations and stories. We developed a trusting relationship that I have never felt with a doctor.